01:30 PM

Office Live To Feature Web Mail Client

"Office Live Mail" will include free and paid versions, and allow users to save e-mail messages to a local machine.

Microsoft's Office Live service will likely include a Web-based e-mail client dubbed "Office Live Mail," a Web site run by several Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals said Thursday.

Office Live, one of the major pieces in Microsoft's new strategy to push into the software-as-service market in an effort to derail competitors such as Google, Yahoo, and, is targeted at small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. When it releases -- details are still sketchy, since it's not yet entered full beta test -- it will offer free domain registration and Web site hosting, free online collaboration tools a la Groove Networks, and free access to multiple mail accounts.

According to the LiveSide site, Office Live will let users choose between free and paid mail accounts -- the former with 250MB of storage, the latter with 2GB, identical to Hotmail allowances -- allow users to access Outlook via HTTP, and save e-mail messages to the local machine.

"Office Live Mail provides users with the ability to read and receive emails from any internet-connected computer in the world," LiveSide quoted an e-mail reportedly from Microsoft. "Ideal for those on the move, Office Live Mail can be accessed from either a web browser or Outlook 2000/2003."

In a separate e-mail that was sent Jan. 6 to the 70,000-plus users who have signed up for the Office Live beta, Microsoft noted that the service will require Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, Microsoft Office 2000 or newer, and Windows XP or later.

Microsoft has not committed to a debut date for the beta, and has only said it would launch the service preview early this year. The e-mailing to beta testers, however, fueled speculation that the service will be unveiled shortly.

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